When Stories Come My Way…

Sometimes, I have to tell about them!

Happy weekend, friends. I suppose I should be Christmas shopping or at least finishing up an evaluation. Had to share this, though I’m not sure I’m considering this write up a review. I just wanted to post my thoughts on some writing and stories that really impressed me—much more intricate and interwoven than I seem to be able to manage at this point in my own scribe’s journey.

I’ve said this before: it’s a rare occasion I search for a book to read. Most find me.

That’s pretty much how I wound up with The Three Miss Margarets and The Ladies of Garrison Gardens and introduced to screenwriter, actor and author Louise Shaffer. (At present I’m reading her most recent release, Looking for a Love Story. The book literally landed in my hand when someone asked me to pass it to a coworker, who often exchanges books with a recently retired coworker. See what I mean?)

Anyway, as a proclaimed writer of romance you know that title caught my attention, and I asked Retired Coworker if I could borrow Love Story. Retired Coworker has always had a knack for directing the cruise ship’s activities, shall we say? She brought me Margarets instead, deciding I’d like that best. Because, as I stated above, books find me and the back cover blurb was interesting enough, I followed Retired Coworker’s lead.

I’ll start by saying both were very well developed stories. If you’re into backstory being told via a series of flashbacks interlaced with the present story unfolding, Ms. Shaffer is your go-to author. How she put together The Three Miss Margarets and managed to keep track of everything that went on and every character involved is beyond me. Each Margaret’s story was highly detailed and well-told; characters that impacted each Margaret’s life abounded. But, between backstory and present story, there were times I found myself a bit confounded.

    

The Ladies of Garrison Gardens was the follow-up to The Three Miss Margarets. I was told by Retired Coworker that she didn’t enjoy it as much as its prequel. The more I read, the more I happily disagreed. I found Ladies to be much more focused and easier to follow. The only point of view (POV) revisited was Laurel McCready’s. (Laurel was just a cool character. Her POV got a laugh out of me almost every time.) The other POV I loved, especially when Ms. Shaffer told that backstory through that character’s flashbacks.  (You’ll have to read for yourself, lest I wind up spoiling the story.) BTW, if you’re into Vaudeville, Louise is also your author. She brings those roaring times to life.

Both books had me turning pages. Each was seriously hard to put down as stories and subplots unfolded, characters faced their challenges and each impacted the others’ lives in ways that made a whole lot of sense in the end. Descriptions were fresh, vivid, colorful. (My favorite, so far, is from Looking, p. 76: “The man was kind of funny looking—as if someone had decided to make a human being out of spare parts and none of them quite fit together.” Loved it!)

My beef about both: endings. I get why the author went the route she did, but my writer’s heart would have enjoyed going in a little deeper and maybe following the expected route a bit more—almost as a springboard for another story, which Ladies could easily have been, had she decided to enlighten her characters the way I think I would have. (But what do I know? Wasn’t my story to write.)

Having shared that, I’m already enmeshed in Love Story and liking this author’s style and versatility. Ms. Shaffer has this witty way of writing contemporary yet being able to glide effortlessly in and out of the past and its associated time. Places she nails, whether it’s segregated Georgia or modern day Manhattan. I’m just wondering how she’ll handle this ending. And yes, for those who are interested I’ll share what I thought about it when I’m done.

So how do you find books? Do they find you? Any one in particular makes you want to tell about it at length? What kind of book would make you do so? (I’d love to read those thoughts here! :))

A great day and a great weekend to all, folks!

Joanna

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Cozying up with Cate Masters!

Hi everyone! It’s been two weeks of paperwork at my end; almost  day-job-writing-free–for a little while, anyway! Nothing like reports looming over me to mess with the fun of a much-appreciated scheduled day off!  Today I’m also enjoying a semi-expected snow day!   School is closed so I get some freebie time to get caught up enough to really enjoy the extended Presidents’ Day weekend; as snowy as things look right now on the mid-north Atlantic coast, I might get almost a week out of this deal! No place more snug than cuddled with my computer and a hot cup of coffee to ride out the inclememnt weather, plugging away at the keys…

                                              

Chances are today’s guest will most be likely plugging away at yet another story very soon, but at the moment she is very excited about today’s release, only one of twelve (count ’em!) current releases–wow! 

 Cate Masters writes fantasy/dark fantasy, historical, contemporary and speculative fiction. Among many reviewers’ descriptions you’ll find: “so compelling I did not want to put it down,” and “romantic tales that really touch your soul.”  Sounds like someone from whom I could learn a whole lot, so let’s go! 

Tell us about your writing roots, Cate. How did you start and what keeps you going? Writing grabbed me at a very young age. I started writing poetry at age 10 which, during my teen years I hoped to be song lyrics but that never panned out.  Not until my late twenties did I turn to fiction, and then I only wrote for myself. Once my kids grew, I had more time to devote to all things writing, including critique groups, workshops and classes. A few years ago, my daughter had a health crisis and I quit my full-time job to stay home with her. Writing literally saved my sanity (and continues to do so!).

                                    Liberation-via-pen.jpg      

How has your writing impacted other aspects of your life? By concentrating on my writing, I find my life to be much more centered and balanced. In the past, I’d pushed writing to the bottom of the priority list, and the rest of my life suffered because I was unhappy. Now I’m doing what I love. Nothing’s better than that. 

Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’? As the result of a submission frenzy in 2008-2009, I had twelve contracts last year: Seventh Heaven, The Duende and the Muse, Going with Gravity and Design for Life with The Wild Rose Press; One Soul for Sale, Picture This and Fever Dreams with Eternal Press; Liberation via Pen with Wild Child Publishing; Angels Sinners and Madmen, Wilderness Girl and The Lure of the Vine with Freya’s Bower; and Reflections with Shadowfire Press. It’s been a wonderfully crazy year!

                                 

Five releases are coming up: Design for Life will be released as part of The Wild Rose Press’ Flower Basket series on Feb. 10, 2010. A historical novel, Angels Sinners and Madmen, will be released by Freya’s Bower soon. Surfacing is a contemporary fantasy novel that Whiskey Creek Press will release. They also contracted a contemporary women’s fiction, The Bridge Between.. I literally have a “dream novel” – Fever Dreams, a contemporary to be released by Eternal Press in mid-2010 (though my real dream novel, my first, is as yet unpublished).

Currently, I’m waiting to hear from two publishers on three contemporary novels.  A historical novel is in revisions, and I plan to submit that soon. About a dozen other stories are in various stages, with my muse nagging at me to get to work!   

                             

Okay, I’m dizzy now and no less than amazed (again!) at how one author can dream up then keep so many stories straight in her head. I’m lucky on a day I can revise one story and work on the first draft of a second. What’s the magic, Cate? How you juggle real life, time to write and all that goes along with it, especially as a published author (i.e., promo, etc)?  As my daughter’s health improved, it necessitated me finding a job again. My wonderful husband urged me to go back part-time, so after getting home from half a day’s work in the real world, I put in a full day of writing and related activities – blogging on my own blog site plus monthly at Popculturedivas and at The Susquehanna Writers, Facebook updates, loop emails (which are the real killer for me! I have a hard time keeping up with the hundreds of emails, even with many on digest).

Please share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work and get others to know you!  I’m still fairly new, so I’m not sure what’s most effective. Social networking has introduced me to a bunch of great people. By blogging regularly, I get my news out there plus I like to host other authors to help them promote their releases. My web site, www.catemasters.com, has all the latest news, links to my releases, reviews, my blogs and other Web pages. Basically, I’d advise any author to put yourself out there however you can!

Design for Life (The Wild Rose Press Flower Basket series),

Released today!

Becca Lyndon puts her dreams on hold by leaving art school to care for her ailing mom. Working full time at The Flower Basket leaves precious little time, but she squeezes in night classes at the local college. When Mike Hunter fills in as a substitute teacher, she worries about a repeat of the critical reviews he gave her work when he substituted at her high school three years earlier. His reason comes as a complete surprise, but can she trust him? Or will he disappear like her father? When that possibility looms all too real, she’s determined never to let the design for her life unravel again. Following her bliss requires work, but pays off in more ways than she ever imagined. She also learns that one door might close, but another can open—and lead to unexpected opportunities.

The homey atmosphere in the shop always unraveled Becca’s wound nerves. Walking to the counter, she reached into her handbag, oversized to double as a briefcase to carry her art supplies. Her presentation last night had gone well, but she hoped this morning’s would surpass it.

“If you have a minute, can you take a look at these designs and let me know what you think? I used them for my class project last night.”

Grace laid a hand on her arm, her face alight. “Did you wow them?”

With a grin, Becca pulled out her sketch pad. “Not exactly. But Mr. Hunter said they were good.”

Her brow furrowed, Donica stepped next to her. “Who’s Mr. Hunter?”

“A substitute teacher.” Her words came out in a sing-song tone.

Steffie clucked her tongue. “Something about the way you say that makes me think he’s kinda cute.”

Becca couldn’t help but smile. “Not kind of. Very.”

At home last night, she found herself sketching Mike Hunter. His dark hair, tapering to the top of his collar, made her want to run her fingers through its waves. She wanted to remove his black rectangular-framed glasses, peer into his dark brown eyes that sparkled when his gaze met hers. Press her lips against his and push his corduroy jacket from his shoulders. Drawing his features gave her a sense of intimacy, one she wanted to experience.

Hoping the women didn’t notice, Becca fanned the warmth from her neck.

Thank goodness they were too busy laughing. Since she’d been hired at The Flower Basket, the three co-owners had come to feel like her sisters. Warm. Supportive. On the days she had to bring Mom to her doctor appointments, all encouraged her not worry about them, even though the shop had attracted so much new business, they sometimes put in sixteen hours.

Becca hoped to give something back. Something worthwhile.

A pleasure to have you stop by, Cate! Best of luck with Design for Life,  your multitude of upcoming releases and all your works-in-progress! Having you here has been an inspiration!

Next week, multi-faceted, Golden Heart Finalist Rebecca J. Clark stops in!  Until next time, my friends: have a wonderful day!

Joanna